What is plaque?
Plaque is a naturally occurring sticky film that is made up of saliva, remnants of what we eat, and microbes (bacteria) of which the majority are beneficial to our health while a few are not. Plaque makeup varies greatly between people based on genetics and of course the meal they consumed! The microbes in plaque and saliva feed on the sugars in the saliva that come from sugary food and drinks and…“fermentable carbohydrates”, sugars from food such as bread. The good microbes in saliva compete with the bad microbes for the food (sugar) resources in the plaque and thereby keep the bad microbes from multiplying.
Is plaque bad?
That depends on whether it is allowed to stay on your teeth. Plaque is easily removed as some comes off with chewing or drinking water, but always best to brush whenever possible. Plaque contains microbes (bacteria) that feed off of the fermentable sugars in saliva. A byproduct of this microbial food fest is the production of acids that if left unchecked attack tooth enamel and become irritants to gum tissue.
Does plaque cause gum disease?
Plaque is considered to be the initiator of gum disease as it will eventually calcify (harden) into dental tartar known by your dentist as calculus. While plaque receives a lot of bad press, the fact is that no one has ever lost a tooth from plaque! The pathway to periodontal disease from plaque formation is not completely understood by science, but plaque is not the cause as teeth lost to advanced periodontal disease will always have a lot of tartar buildup on the surface that harbors and protects the bad bacteria. It is tartar buildup that sets the stage for gum disease.